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You aren’t ready for this Galaxy S23 vs. iPhone 14 Pro camera test


Samsung’s Galaxy S23 is here, and it’s quickly become one of the best phones you can buy in 2023. For $800, you’re getting a small but mighty phone with Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset, long-lasting battery life, and a powerful triple lens camera system with a 50-megapixel main shooter.

But how does one of the best Android phones stack up against Apple’s smallest flagship, the iPhone 14 Pro? It has just as many cameras as the Galaxy S23, a powerful 48MP main camera, and costs $200 more than Samsung’s handset.

I put the two phones and their cameras head to head over the past several weeks, and the results may surprise you.

Galaxy S23 vs. iPhone 14 Pro: camera specs

Deep purple iPhone 14 Pro and Cream Galaxy S23 cameras closeup
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Samsung’s Galaxy S23 and Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro have similar specs in terms of cameras, at least much closer than compared to the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

With the S23, you have a 50MP main camera, 12MP ultra-wide camera, and a 10MP telephoto camera. Zoom capabilities clock in at 3x optical zoom and up to 30x digital. The iPhone 14 Pro has a 48MP main camera, 12MP ultra-wide, and 12MP telephoto with 2x and 3x optical zoom.

On the front-facing camera side, both the Galaxy S23 and iPhone 14 Pro have a 12MP selfie camera. Both devices also feature optical image stabilization on the main and telephoto cameras. The S23 makes use of Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chip for processing, while the iPhone 14 Pro has Apple’s A16 Bionic chip with the Neural Engine, which powers a host of computational photography features.

All of the following photo examples have been unedited to show the differences between both devices’ automatic camera settings.

Galaxy S23 vs. iPhone 14 Pro: main camera

Though the Galaxy S23 and iPhone 14 Pro have 50MP and 48MP main cameras, respectively, they both show up as 12MP by default due to pixel binning. That means several smaller pixels make up a single larger pixel, resulting in the “12MP” metadata that you see after pressing the shutter button. However, you can shoot in full-resolution RAW formats if you choose to, but this is a manual setting that needs to be toggled — and keep in mind that RAW file formats will take up a lot more space per image compared to the regular JPEG/HEIC format.

While the S23 and iPhone 14 Pro have similar camera specs, it all boils down to how each camera treats the colors, contrast, and exposure in the images that you capture. This is also dependent on the lighting situation that you’re in, which may result in better results on one over the other.

Let’s start with this picture of a flower. The Galaxy S23 image leans more on the cooler side of the spectrum, and the colors are slightly brighter and more vivid. The bokeh effect in the background is also more natural and doesn’t distort the houses in the neighborhood. The iPhone 14 Pro image, on the other hand, leans warmer and more realistic in terms of color. You can also see the finer details on the flower petals, which are much harder to see in the S23 photo. The background bokeh is more distorted with the iPhone version, though. Personally, I prefer the Galaxy S23 image here.

Next is a photo of grass with drops of rain after a storm rolled through. The S23 picture makes the grass look much more vibrant and eye-catching. But when you take a closer look, there’s a bit of distortion as you move away from the center, as the grass and raindrops appear a bit more blurry, and the contrast isn’t as sharp. However, with the iPhone 14 Pro, the colors are again more realistic, the finer details (like lines and texture in the grass blades) are still there, and you can even see those details through the raindrops. There’s also less blurriness and distortion in the iPhone capture. Though the colors are more appealing in the Galaxy S23 shot, the iPhone 14 Pro version simply looks better overall.

Let’s take a look at this hanging lantern in a restaurant. The Galaxy S23 image is warmer and has a nice tone to it, with colors looking rich and vibrant, even in the background. The lights also look more natural with less bokeh distortion. However, the iPhone 14 Pro seems to have more detail and contrast, though the sparkling lights in the bottom left look like tiny horseshoes. I’m going with the Galaxy S23 photo for this one.

Now let’s have a closer look at this plate of premium AYCE sushi options from a local restaurant. While the colors are more true to life in the iPhone 14 Pro version, it appears some detail was lost with the bluefin tuna in the back, as well as the decorative leaf on the dish. The Galaxy S23 image is brighter and warmer, and you can see more detail with all of the food on the plate, not just what’s in front.

Finally, here’s a photo of the exterior of Carthay Circle, located in Disney California Adventure Park. Again, while the iPhone 14 Pro captures more of what you see in real life, the Galaxy S23’s picture is brighter and more appealing with the colors — especially on the marquee sign with the lights. There are also fewer shadows in the S23 image, allowing more detail to show up through the windows at the top of the tower. I’m also not a fan of how the iPhone 14 Pro processed the blue sky, as the areas near the palm trees appear more washed out than they should be compared with the rest of the sky. It’s also easier to see the smaller details in the palm trees in the S23 capture versus the iPhone 14 Pro.

The iPhone 14 Pro certainly has its strengths, but ultimately, I’m giving this round to the Galaxy S23.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S23

Galaxy S23 vs. iPhone 14 Pro: wide-angle camera

The wide-angle camera is the one I shoot photos least in, but for the sake of this camera comparison, I grabbed a few examples.

The first photo was taken on a cloudy, overcast day, and shows that the Galaxy S23 used this fact to its advantage. The S23 image definitely has a cooler overall tone, but it did capture the details in the tree branches and leaves much better than the iPhone 14 Pro. It also has more sharpness and detail in the dirt and wood chip areas. But the iPhone 14 Pro has more true-to-life colors, of course, and it seems to pull out more details with the rock planters along the path, but a lot of other details have been lost.

Next, let’s take a look at this ultra-wide photo of this iconic part of the Radiator Springs Racers ride at Disney California Adventure. The Galaxy S23 shows again that it can take a good image even if the lighting situation isn’t the best, as the colors are brighter and overall more appealing. However, though you get more details in the greenery in the front, the iPhone 14 Pro image has more sharpness with the dirt and gravel. You can also see more texture and detail in the iPhone 14 Pro image when it comes to the rock formations, as some of that is lost in the S23’s photo.

Finally, we have Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure. The lighting conditions were less than ideal again, but the Galaxy S23 handled it much better than the iPhone 14 Pro. The sky has some blue peeking through the clouds, and the colors are more vivid on the Incredicoaster and Pixar Pal-A-Round. You can also make out the buildings across the water better in the S23 image better. However, the Galaxy S23 does make all of the water spouts for the World of Color show stand out significantly more in terms of contrast, which may not be appealing if you’re seeking the perfect-looking photo. Still, the Galaxy S23 produced the better-looking image here — and ultimately wins another round over the iPhone 14 Pro.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S23

Galaxy S23 vs. iPhone 14 Pro: telephoto camera

Though the iPhone 14 Pro has a 12MP telephoto and the Galaxy S23 only has a 10MP telephoto, the S23 is capable of up to 30x digital zoom, whereas the iPhone only goes up to 15x. However, the iPhone 14 Pro looks bad at its maximum 15x output, and the 20x and 30x zoom options on the S23 aren’t great either. For this comparison, we’ll just focus on the optical zoom only, which is up to 3x for both.

Here we have a fine specimen over at Disney California Adventure Park, Snickers the cat, who always hangs out near Grizzly River Run. Both of these were taken using the 3x optical zoom, but the iPhone 14 Pro does a better job of capturing the colors — the S23 image appears a little more washed out than I’d like. The contrast is also better on the iPhone image, and you can see more details and texture all over.

It’s 100 years of the Walt Disney Company, and all of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are decorated to celebrate the occasion. Here’s a closer look at the “Disney 100 Years of Wonder” sign that you can find above the entrance gates to Disney California Adventure. The Galaxy S23, once again, is able to capture better colors despite the cloudy and overcast lighting situation, and its tendency to lean towards a cooler tone really brings out the purple lighting on the signage. It also does a better job of having better contrast with the black parts surrounding the sign against the trees in the background, as you can hardly tell that’s there in the iPhone 14 Pro image. The colors also look drabber in the iPhone photo, though I will say it’s more accurate to what you see in reality.

Lastly, let’s take another look at the rock formations at Radiator Springs Racers. This time, I zoomed in on the waterfall that you can see further back in the scene, near the start of the ride when you’re on it. The Galaxy S23 makes the colors pop, but there is definitely some lost detail in the rocks themselves. The iPhone 14 Pro image shows richer colors on the rocks while still retaining a lot of the texture. The trees are also less green, and it’s harder to spot the bridge in front of the waterfall. While the iPhone 14 Pro produces a more detailed image, the Galaxy S23 is still more visually appealing, especially if you’re putting this on social media.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S23

Galaxy S23 vs. iPhone 14 Pro: night mode

As someone who is barely out at night these days because of a toddler, I didn’t get a chance to really put night mode to the test. I only captured some low-light images in front of my house before I turned in for the night. Still, the photos I did capture provide a well-rounded picture of how these two phones compare when the lights go down.

This first image is of a small local park that is in front of my house. The Galaxy S23 night mode definitely turns up the brightness on everything, and if it weren’t for the street lights and lamp posts throughout the park, you may not even think that this was at night. While the S23 also makes sure that you can see the leaves on the trees as well, they definitely lack detail once you zoom in. The iPhone 14 Pro version, on the other hand, looks a bit more realistic to what you see with your own eyes, including the shadows from the lights on the grass. It’s not overly done, and the trees still have detail if you take a closer look.

I took a picture of this cactus plant I have in my front yard with no lights other than from the streets. Though I prefer the Galaxy S23’s color, I don’t like how it seems to make the cactus appear smoother than it really is, because it looks unnatural. The iPhone 14 Pro retains the texture of the cactus and the succulents, as well as the other random leaves in the planter, but the color appears warmer than I’d like.

For the final night mode image, let’s have a look at some of my Minnie ears collection from the Disney Parks I have displayed on my bedroom wall, with no lights or sunshine coming through the windows. The iPhone version definitely holds more detail and texture with the various ear materials and the wall itself, but the colors are dark and not reflective of how they look in person. The Galaxy S23, meanwhile, captured the colors of the ears much better, but it smoothed out the wall, as well as my fuzzy pink ears, more than it should have.

The iPhone 14 Pro takes this round and finally gets its first win of the comparison.

Winner: iPhone 14 Pro

Galaxy S23 vs. iPhone 14 Pro: portrait mode

Portrait mode on smartphones allows anyone to take some great self-portraits or just portraits of other people — or even pets and objects. It’s one of my most used modes to shoot in, so I was eager to put these two devices to the test.

In this portrait of my daughter, while she was on the move, I was impressed with the Galaxy S23’s capabilities. Thanks to the S23’s better edge detection, my daughter’s hair is noticeably smoother, while it appears more jagged and rough in the iPhone 14 Pro version. The S23 also seems better at getting more in focus even while in motion; as you can see, her foot is blurry in the iPhone 14 Pro capture but not in the Galaxy S23 one. I also prefer the more natural blurring bokeh effect that the S23 produces, though you can definitely see more detail and texture in the faux fur part of her coat thanks to the iPhone’s Deep Fusion process.

Here’s another view of a flower that we took earlier, but this time in portrait mode. Again, the Galaxy S23 seems to have better edge detection, as it was able to keep the smaller leaves and buds behind the main flower’s petals in focus, while the iPhone 14 Pro seems to just focus on the main white flower. The bokeh effect is also not super heavy-handed on the S23 compared to the iPhone 14 Pro, and the colors stand out more, which is what you’d want with flowers and plants in general.

In this final photo, we have Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Minnie Mouse nuiMOs dressed up in some cute Valentine’s Day attire. It appears that the Galaxy S23 had a little bit of trouble detecting the black edges of Oswald’s face, but the rest of the edges are pretty accurate and not as jagged. The iPhone 14 Pro does bring out the finer texture of the plush, which seems to be smoothed out on the S23. There is less distortion around the edges on the Galaxy S23 image compared to the iPhone 14 Pro, and though it’s similar, the bokeh effect on the S23 looks slightly better to my eyes.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S23

Galaxy S23 vs. iPhone 14 Pro: selfie camera

Finally, we have the selfie camera on both the Galaxy S23 and iPhone 14 Pro. I don’t usually like to take selfies, with the exception of Disneyland, because, well, isn’t that what all the cool kids do?

In this selfie I took at the Pixar Pier waterfront at Disney California Adventure, the Galaxy S23 seems to lean warmer, oddly enough, thus affecting my skin tone. It definitely made me look a little more yellow than I actually am. The iPhone 14 Pro selfie captures my skin tone more realistically.

Another selfie while outside at the park with my family in the early evening, this time with the portrait mode setting enabled. Edge detection with the S23 is again better, as my hair looks less rough all around. While I appreciate the Galaxy S23 smoothing my skin out a little, the skin tone is still not 100% accurate, as it looks warmer than I really am. The background colors are more vibrant in the S23 capture, but there’s definitely not as much detail, because you can’t see all the little bits of white lint on my black shirt compared to the iPhone 14 Pro version. The iPhone photo is overall more detailed, much to the dismay of my large pores, and the skin tone is more like reality.

Winner: iPhone 14 Pro

The Galaxy S23 gets a big (and surprising) win

Deep purple iPhone 14 Pro and Cream Galaxy S23 crossed over
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Apple is always touting the iPhone lineup as having the best cameras out there, but after putting it head-to-head with the baseline Samsung Galaxy S23, that’s just not the case. In this camera comparison, the S23 won in four categories, while the iPhone 14 Pro only won two — and that’s a big deal.

While Samsung may not have always had the best cameras, that seems to be changing for the better with the Galaxy S23 series. Samsung has been refining its cameras over the past few years, and it’s really starting to show. In fact, the S23 Ultra beat the Google Pixel 7 Pro in another camera comparison that we did, and that’s no easy feat, considering that the Pixel devices are also considered to have some of the best mobile camera systems.

Though the standard Galaxy S23 is not the higher-end model of the lineup, it’s impressive that it can beat Apple’s flagship, which is also considerably more expensive — starting at $1,000 compared to $800. To be fair, though, Apple’s over-processing of regular, non-RAW images has been hurting it more than helping, and it seems that Samsung’s own processing on the S23 through the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chip is less destructive. Whatever the reason, one thing is clear: Apple has its camera work cut out for it with the iPhone 15 this year.

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